Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you take a look at the prep football scoreboard this week, you can probably coin it “Rivalry Week.”
There’s always that one week in the football season that means a little more than all the rest. You’ve put in the practice time, you’ve been in the weight room and you’ve watched the film. It’s time to go out under the lights and get that big victory. But it means a little more when you’re facing an opponent you may not necessarily like, but respect.
The fuel of playing sports is everyone has a rival. It’s that one team you must beat. You could win one game all season, but as long as it’s your rival that’s all that matters. There are plenty of rivalry match-ups this week, and the games are even better with larger season and conference title implications on the line. For our featured game, we head to the Minnesota River Conference for a big game south of the Twin Cities
Featured Game: Jordan (3-0) at Belle Plaine (3-0)
There’s a top-10 match-up in Class 3A on tape Friday night between unbeaten teams as Belle Plaine will host Jordan in the Minnesota River Conference. It’s our featured game for High School Sports Rally, and the two teams are coming off frustrating 2012 seasons.
Belle Plaine finished just 2-5 in league play last year, but the Tigers are off to a hot start with wins over New Ulm, Watertown-Mayer and Sibley East. They’re led by Luke Narveson, who is their top passer and second-leading rusher. He’s averaging more than 280 passing yards in three games and had seven touchdowns without an interception. Narveson has also run for 92 yards and a touchdown. Belle Plain is led in the run game by Dillon Haefner’s 148 yards and one touchdown. Ben Stier leads the defensive attack with 14 tackles.
Jordan won just one regular season game last year before making an improbable run to the Class 3A State Tournament, and it appears the Hubmen are trying to build off that late run this fall. Jordan is off to a 3-0 start with wins over Kimball, Sibley East and Norwood-America. Mayer Lutheran and Sibley East shared the Minnesota River Conference title last year, but it appears a new leader could emerge depending on the outcome of this game Friday night.
The Hubmen are led by senior quarterback Brian Hartman, senior running back Casey Hull and senior wide receiver Zach Busch. When the two teams met last year, Jordan snuck out a 13-12 victory. With the inside track to a conference title on the line, I expect this game to be just as close. I’ll take Belle Plaine with the home field advantage.
Mahtomedi (3-0) at South St. Paul (3-0)
It’s a huge match-up of rival teams in the southeast metro Friday night as South St. Paul hosts Mahtomedi in the Classic Suburban Conference. The Packers and Zephyrs are each 2-0 in league play and are dominating their opponents. Mahtomedi is outscoring opponents by an average of 43-12 through three games, while South St. Paul is beating opponents on average 36-9. The Packers like to play with a fast defense and balanced run game, while the Zephyrs pound it down your throat offensively and feature a bruising defensive unit. South St. Paul won at Mahtomedi last season, and I’ll take the Zephyrs to return the favor in a close one Friday night.
Hopkins (1-2) at Minnetonka (4-0)
Minnetonka enters Friday night’s game against Hopkins undefeated at 4-0 and the No. 2-ranekd team in Class 6A behind powerhouse Eden Prairie. The Skippers are coming off a 38-0 win over Bloomington Jefferson, but het schedule gets brutal with their last three against Edina, Eden Prairie and Wayzata. Winning these next two games over Hopkins and Edina will go a long way toward a showdown with Eden Prairie for the Lake Conference title. Look for Nick Rooney to have a big game in this one for the Skippers. He’s thrown for almost 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns in four wins. I’ll take the Skippers at home.
Hill-Murray (1-2) at St. Thomas Academy (2-1)
St. Thomas Academy looks to stay unbeaten in Classic Suburban Conference play Friday night as it hosts rival Hill-Murray in Mendota Heights. The Cadets have wins over Simley and Henry Sibley, while Hill-Murray lost to that Simley squad 31-28 last week. The two teams battled last year in a game that went down to the wire as the Cadets prevailed 27-25. Bennett Brackey leads St. Thomas at quarterback with 128 yards and two touchdowns, but the Cadets look to put their balanced rushing attack on display as four different players have rushing touchdowns. They’ll need to stop Pioneers running back Dusty Krueger, who has 323 yards and four touchdowns on the season. I’ll take St. Thomas at home in a close one.
Extra: Edina (2-2) at Eden Prairie (3-0)
Edina surprised everybody in high school football last year when it beat Hopkins, Wayzata and Eden Prairie to end the regular season and win the Lake Conference. That was on the way to a 9-2 season and a trip to the new Class 6A state quarterfinals. The Hornets are 2-2 as they travel to Eden Prairie Friday night to open their conference season. They beat Burnsville 27-6 last week. Eden Prairie is 3-0 and is also opening their Lake Conference season. Led by Anthony Anderson at running back, the Eagles beat Totino-Grace 42-7 last week. Edina lost to that same squad 28-7 two weeks ago, so the Hornets seem to be the underdogs. I’ll take Eden Prairie at home, but it’ll be closer than most think.
Tune into WCCO-TV’s High School Sports Rally at about 10:20 p.m. Friday as Mike Max, Frank Vascellaro and David McCoy will have all the action covered. Also tune into the WCCO Radio Rally at 7 p.m. with Steve Thomson.